Rane C4 Compressor

If you haven't seen the ads, Rane has a new series of analog-controlled digital processors. The C4, a full-featured, four-channel compressor is one of the principals of this new group. Owning a number of good-sounding, reliable Rane EQs, I was very curious to hear this new dynamic processor in action.
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If you haven't seen the ads, Rane has a new series of analog-controlled digital processors. The C4, a full-featured, four-channel compressor is one of the principals of this new group. Owning a number of good-sounding, reliable Rane EQs, I was very curious to hear this new dynamic processor in action.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, studio, broadcast

Key Features: Four-channel; threshold, attack, ratio, release controls; de-esser; parametric EQ

Price: $999

Contact: Rane at 425-355-6000, Web Site.
Features

The Rane C4 (not to be confused with the Waves plug-in processor or the Mackie hardware controller or the military explosive of the same name) is two rack spaces high, 5.25 inches deep. Each of the C4's four channels has a full-featured compressor including threshold, ratio, attack, release, knee and gain (or makeup). In addition, the C4 features an independent brickwall limiter. At the bottom right of each channel is a three-way toggle switch that enables that channel to function as either a broadband compressor or a de-esser. The side chain can key internally (via the channel's full parametric EQ) or externally. The middle position on this switch is labeled "listen," allowing you to hear what the side chain detector is keying on. There are hordes of LEDs on the C4 with ample representation for gain reduction, limiter threshold, side chain status, auto function, and channel link. The main LED is a three-function display. It shows side chain level, threshold and gain reduction. Interestingly, in de-ess mode, the side chain level is the relative difference between the broadband program material and the bandpass signal defined by the PEQ, as compared to the threshold.

The back of the C4 is home to the unit's I/O connections. Each channel has balanced XLR and 1/4-inch (TRS) for in and out. There are also four 1/4-inch side chain jacks.

In Use

My first use of the C4 was in a situation that could best be described as "baptism by fire." I was providing sound reinforcement for a popular area folk festival on an outdoor stage. The festival features a wide range of acts that run the gamut from acoustic solo/duo to a full-blown Celtic electric "orchestra" with drums, keyboards and electric guitars. Throughout the day, I used the C4 on a variety of channels from kick and snare to bodhran to lead vocals. I found the C4 to be extremely competent and largely transparent - even when doing some pretty heavy gain reduction. I love all the control parameters on this unit. During one set, the drummer had a snare that had a wicked ring in the 800 Hz range. By using the onboard PEQ in the side chain and the listen function (while the channel was muted and soloed) I was able to really clamp down on the offending tone. Of course, it's best to use the listen function in sound check when you can hear things in the system but a soundcheck was a distant fantasy on that day.

It was nice having the additional limiter onboard too. That way I could do some nice smoothing on a lead vocal while keeping the limiter engaged at a higher threshold for any serious transients - a nice safety net in a festival environment. The C4 handled all situations with precision and competency. At the end of a long day of grueling work, I felt like I had a new friend in the C4.

For those who love to customize and tweak your dynamics processing to get that "perfect sound," this is the piece for you. It has all the parameter adjustments that I look for in a dynamics processor - and then some. Despite this being a digital processor, no patches can be stored. That's probably why the manual (which is wonderfully informative) has several pages of blank faceplate diagrams. For those of you who like to just patch in a compressor and go, the C4 has an auto function that takes over command of attack and release while threshold and ratio remain manually adjustable.

My only quibble with the C4 was that the side chain listen function can remain engaged. That could be a real OOPS moment if you forgot to set it back to compress or de-ess after tweaking. "Why does the bass sound like crap?" Perhaps a non-latching switch is in order? Nevertheless, I love the listen function and I'm sure that after an episode or two of leaving the listen engaged, you'd figure it out.

Summary

The Rane C4 is a very powerful dynamics processor with extensive control and metering and ample I/O. Functionality is not its only strong suit, it is a real winner sonically too. At $999, the C4 is, in my opinion, a great bargain.